Yoshitora Utagawa, Maisaka, Painting and Calligraphy from the 53 Stations of the Tokaido


Artist: Yoshitora Utagawa (active 1830-1880)
Title: Maisaka - Totomi Province
Series title: Painting and Calligraphy from the 53 Stations of the Tokaido
Publisher: Sawamuraya
Date: 1872
Size: 22.7 x 35.2 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

Tokaido was the most important travel route between the city of Edo and the capital Kyoto. Along this road were numerous stations or posts that offered refreshments and lodging for travellers. Tokaido was a favourite subject in woodblock prints produced in the Edo period and frequently associated with events or characters, as is also the case in this series. The main title is within the red cartouche to the right, and below that in the lower right corner a green pillar-shaped cartouche identifies the station name and prefecture with an explanation of the main image. The telegraph pole along the right margin seems to announce the beginning of the new Meiji era, with new technologies being adapted at a fast pace throughout the country.

Yoshitora Utagawa

Yoshitora Utagawa was a woodblock print artist active towards the end of the 19th century in Japan. Born in Edo (today’s Tokyo), neither his date of birth nor date of death is known. Yoshitora was a pupil of Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1798-1861), however, he was expelled due to artistic differences. He went on his own path and changed his artist name to Mosai, producing prints of warriors, kabuki actors, beautiful women, and foreigners in particular (Yokohama-e).

The limited contact with the West imposed by the Japanese regime in the Edo period (1603-1868) created endless curiosity that artists were eager to satisfy, although the situations they imagined were sometimes far from being accurate. It is evident from these prints that the Japanese were fascinated by the clothing, the strange habits and the occupations of the foreigners.

For much of the Edo period Japan adopted a sakoku (closed country) policy. Sakoku was a system in which strict regulations were placed on commerce and foreign relations by the shogunate and certain feudal domains. Trade was limited, except for the port of Nagasaki where the Dutch and Chinese were the only ones allowed to operate. In 1859 the port of Yokohama was opened to foreigners, and ukiyo-e artists, primarily of the Utagawa school, produced hundreds of woodblock print designs in response to a general curiosity about the newly arrived visitors.

Yoshitora was a leading designer of these prints and he also produced a number of landscapes derived from Western engraving. In the Meiji period that began in 1868 he also worked for newly established newspapers.

More Information
Print FormatOban (Vertical)
ArtistYoshitora Utagawa
SubjectBeauty & Female, Landscapes
Dimensions22.7 x 35.2 cm
Condition ReportTrimmed, colour partly running, light wear.